The Alentejana cattle breed, also known as Transtagana, originates from the Alentejo region of Portugal. This breed is used for agricultural work and is similar to the Spanish Retinta breed.
The Alentejana is a medium to large breed and has a golden red colour. The horns are large and point forward, with upturned tips. The hind legs are very muscular and strong and the shoulders are long and broad. Their hoofs are well shaped, solid and smooth. They are rustic, energetic and gentle animals.
Nowadays, the Alentejana is an extensively reared breed. Like the Iberian black pig, it feeds freely in large areas. The particularity of this free feeding in a dry and hot climate leads to the meat being of the highest quality. The flavour is intense and the is meat tender.
For centuries the Alentejana was the most important working breed in the plains and hills of the Alentejo, in the central-southern region of Portugal. From the mid-1900s, the mechanisation of agricultural work slowly took over. From this point onward the selection of the breed became focused on the quality of its meat. Thus, from a more massive form which was selected for resistance to make it a working breed, the Alentejana was crossed with new breeds (e.g. Salers and Charolais) to obtain a better yield of meat, leading to the decline of the genetics of the original breed.
For this reason, the Alentejana studbook was established in 1970. Breeders of the native Portuguese breed began working to limit genetic regression. National and community programmes were implemented to promote the conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources, and producers began marketing their meat as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) products.
The traceability of all the animals that are slaughtered is carried out in collaboration with the Associação de Criadores de Bovinos da Raça Alentejana, based in Assumar, which is responsible for managing the genealogy of the Alentejana breed.
However, recovering the purity of the breed has created a problem, in that there has been a reduction of this variety’s genetic diversity.